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State slams Gary library system for poor record keeping

Updated: January 13, 2013 6:20AM



GARY — A top public library official Tuesday promised state officials the district will tighten up its documentation policies after a scathing state report that shed light on shoddy record keeping and questionable payouts.

The State Board of Accounts audit of the Gary Public Library was unusual, said one state official. The SBOA usually audits such taxing entities every two years, but last week’s report stretched from 2008 through 2011.

Gary Public Library Board President Nancy Valentine, who has held that seat only since June, did not return calls seeking comment, but, in a signed response to the State Board of Accounts, she wrote the district has “ascertained areas needed for improvement and shall make every effort to correct and strengthen weaknesses in our record keeping, policies and procedures.”

Valentine also wrote that the district’s board of trustees will ensure stronger credit card and documentation policies.

The State Board of Accounts last week listed a slew of instances of financial mismanagement, mostly cases of poor documentation, for the district, which lost as much as $3 million in property tax revenue from 2010 through 2012.

The district also has gone through five acting, interim and permanent directors since 2008.

The library system was hit with $1,323 in penalties and fees for filing late federal and state taxes for 2007 through 2009 and 2011. Also, ousted director Sherri Ervin and an executive assistant at the district racked up $12,432 in fuel and American Express credit card charges without providing the proper receipts and other documents.

Most of the American Express charges, $10,389, came in 2011, with only $669 accounted for through proper documentation.

Bonuses and additional compensation for select employees also were issues. In 2011, one employee received $5,500 in retroactive pay and two more received $4,426 in bonuses without required board approval.

One of the employees who received the second amount also received a $7,566 raise that same year without approval.

The SBOA also dinged the district for giving cash advances to vendors and department managers for expenses that would occur later, but one of the larger issues was a group of discrepancies between Accufund, the district’s accounting system, and the system’s annual reports.

For example, the “cash disbursements ledger” in Accufund listed $2,264,448 in 2011, while the annual reports listed $3,883,020 in disbursements, a $1,618,572 difference.

In a section on how the district handled unused vacation days, retired long-time employee Roma Ivey, who was interim director from Jan. 29, 2008 to Nov. 2, 2008, was paid $7,361.53 for 29 unused 2007 vacation days in 2008 and an additional $10,658 for unused days in 2009 and 2010 when she retired in October 2010.

The board of trustees, which saw a significant change in make-up and attitude toward Ervin after she began in November 2009, denied her request for pay for more than 30 unused vacation days, but the board paid Ervin for 25 unused vacation days in 2011, though she was entitled to only 12 days.



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